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Intramuscular Chemotherapy


What is intramuscular chemotherapy?

Intramuscular (IM) chemotherapy is used to treat cancer. Chemotherapy (chemo) is used to shrink the tumor or kill the cancer cells. IM chemo is given as an injection deep into a muscle in your arm, thigh, or buttock.

How long will I need to have IM chemotherapy?

The type of cancer you have will determine how long you will need to receive chemo. You may have more than one medicine given at a time. You may need chemo every day, week, or once to twice a month. Chemo is often given in cycles over a period of several months or more. This means that you will get the medicine for a period of time, and then you will have a break from it. This allows your body to grow new, healthy cells.

Where will I go to get chemotherapy?

You may get chemo in a clinic, or at home. You may need to see your caregiver every time you get a shot. If you get chemo at home, a caregiver specially trained in chemo will give it to you.

What tests and treatments may I need during chemotherapy?

Tests will help your caregiver see how the chemo is working. It will also help him to see how your body is handling the chemo. You may need more than one of the following:

  • Blood tests: Your caregiver will use these tests to check your blood cell count. You may need regular blood tests to make sure your organs are working correctly. Blood tests may also show if you have an infection in your blood.
  • Chest x-ray: Caregivers may use these pictures of your lungs and heart to look for a tumor.
  • CT scan: This test is also called a CAT scan. An x-ray machine uses a computer to take pictures of your body. It may show the size and location of the tumor. You may be given a dye before the pictures are taken to help caregivers see the pictures better. Tell the caregiver if you have ever had an allergic reaction to contrast dye.
  • Blood transfusion: Chemo may cause your bone marrow to stop producing blood cells. You may need a blood transfusion to help replace blood cells your body cannot make.

What are the risks of IM chemotherapy?

You may have a severe reaction to the chemo. You may have pain in the area where you get your injection. Chemo may increase your risk of an infection in your mouth or other body area. Chemo can permanently harm your organs. The chemo may not kill all the cancer cells, and the cancer could spread. Without treatment, the cancer may spread to other parts of your body and become life-threatening.

How can I care for myself during IM chemotherapy treatment?

  • Prevent illness: Stay away from people who are sick. Stay away from children who have recently been vaccinated for chicken pox or polio. Ask for more instructions about protecting yourself from illness or infection.
  • Drink liquids as directed: Ask how much liquid to drink each day and which liquids are best for you. You may also need to replace fluid if you are vomiting or have diarrhea from cancer treatments.
  • Eat healthy foods: Healthy foods include fruits, vegetables, whole-grain breads, low-fat dairy products, beans, lean meats, and fish. Ask if you need to be on a special diet. If you do not feel like eating, try to eat smaller meals, and eat more often. Eat foods high in protein and calories, such as milk, cheese, and eggs. Several small meals a day may be easier to eat than a few large meals.

When should I contact my caregiver?

Contact your caregiver if:

  • You have a fever.
  • The area where you got the injection is painful, red, or swollen.
  • You have nausea, are vomiting, or have no appetite for several days.
  • You are very tired and have no energy for several days.
  • You have sores or white spots in your mouth.
  • You have constipation or diarrhea for longer than 1 day.
  • You are depressed.
  • Your heart is beating very fast.
  • You have frequent, painful urination.
  • You have a cough that is new, or that does not go away within a few days.
  • You have questions or concerns about your condition or care.

When should I seek immediate care?

Seek care immediately or call 911 if:

  • You have chest pain, shortness of breath, or trouble breathing.
  • You feel confused, or have a severe headache that does not go away within a few days.
  • You have arm or leg weakness, trouble walking, or trouble seeing.
  • Your pain increases.
  • Your arm or leg feels warm, tender, and painful. It may look swollen and red.
  • You feel weak, dizzy, or faint.

Care Agreement

You have the right to help plan your care. Learn about your health condition and how it may be treated. Discuss treatment options with your caregivers to decide what care you want to receive. You always have the right to refuse treatment. The above information is an educational aid only. It is not intended as medical advice for individual conditions or treatments. Talk to your doctor, nurse or pharmacist before following any medical regimen to see if it is safe and effective for you.

Learn more about Intramuscular Chemotherapy

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Further information

Always consult your healthcare provider to ensure the information displayed on this page applies to your personal circumstances.